Foals - Total Life Forever - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Foals - Total Life Forever

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2010-05-10

"Of all the people/ I hoped it'd be you" yowls Yannis Philippakis on 'Blue Blood', the opening track on second album Total Life Forever, over a dreamy wash of guitar. It's a moment of oblique hand-wringing which soon erupts into the kind of punk-funk jam for which the band became renowned on 2008 debut Antidotes.

However, things have evolved a little for album number two. Putting aside their frenetic math-rock inclinations, Foals have managed to wed their itchy rhythms to a more pop sensibility on Total Life Forever. The result is as nicely in keeping with its time as Antidotes was with the post-punk revival of a few years back. Comeback single 'The Orient' is a twinkling, quietly anthemic thing and is of a piece with the polyrhythmic, yearningly emotional music found on Yeasayer's Odd Blood and Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Elsewhere, even the funk is different. 'Miami' is slick and restrained rather than introverted and intellectual. The title track is taunt and chiming. You sense this easy marriage between accessibility and complexity is where Bloc Party's Kele Okereke would like to head, if only he had the nous to pull it off. The album's emotional heart comes to the fore on 'Spanish Sahara', an aching, gently building piece based on a young Philippakis' encounter with a dead dog floating in the sea. Musically it's beautiful, but when Philippakis whimpers "Forget the horror here", you can't help but feel he's over-selling the moment slightly.

The trade-off continues throughout the album: labyrinthine song-structure for emotional directness, abrasiveness for a multi-textured approach. This may leave some fans feeling a little betrayed while others will feel Foals have successfully and gracefully moved onto the next stage in their development. If anything, the band perhaps overdo the subtlety. Listening to the album as whole, the latter half drags a little. It doesn't help that Philippakis' voice is a rather dreary instrument with an unfortunately self-pitying tone to it. However, later songs like the excellent 'After Glow' benefit from a more confrontational attitude and punchier sound.

Will this newfound lightness of touch last into album number three? Hard to tell. You sense that, like the aforementioned Bloc Party, Foals are a band whose desire to evolve is built into their DNA. However, it seems likely Total Life Forever will bring them greater success and a wider audience, something they richly deserve.

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